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Bitcoin Startup BitMari to Partner with African Commercial Bank

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BitMari

BitMari, a Zimbabwe-based bitcoin wallet provider and remittance service, recently applied for a remittance license from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. The bitcoin startup aims to tap into agricultural-related remittances in the region. BitMari has already partnered with the Zimbabwe Bank of Agriculture in rolling out its blockchain-based accelerator for women farmers in Africa. The new license will see it become Zimbabwe’s first bitcoin-based remittance service.

BitMari set to Revolutionise International Remittances for African Farmers

In the past, Africa has recorded the highest number of people who do not have access to financial services. However, this is beginning to change as a wave of innovation sweeps across the continent, with technology being a key driver of financial inclusion. Bitcoin has been successful in improving the penetration of financial services in Africa, with companies such as BitPesa, and other cryptocurrency startups flourishing in several nations.

BitMari has been at the forefront of advocating for blockchain-based solutions as a means to achieve political change. In a 2016 interview with Ebony Magazine, BitMari co-founder, Sinclair Skinner was adamant that technology was a better solution for many of the continent’s problems than politics.

Building on its philanthropic programs targeting female farmers, BitMari hopes to offer superior money remittance services to the African economy, which has lost over $60 bn in exorbitant remittance fees. Farmers who export their produce see their earnings reduce when they send and receive money internationally or exchange currencies due to high fees. With the agricultural export industry accounting for 50% of Africa’s economic output, a system that allows farmers to bypass conventional banking processes and retain most of their earnings would likely quickly gain in popularity.

“Blockchain technology will allow Agribank and future indigenous African banks to leapfrog traditional remittance methods. Financial inclusion creates empowerment and ultimately stronger economies,” Skinner stated.

Regulatory Challenges

While some may argue, undeveloped financial structures in African countries, offer opportunities for cryptocurrency startups to succeed, the reverse can also be true. The lack of any substantive regulations pertaining to cryptocurrencies hampers the adoption of bitcoin in Africa.

Only a handful of countries have introduced official guidelines for businesses to operate within, the rest are either considering or have outrightly banned bitcoin usage. As BitMari continues to partner with mainstream financial institutions across Africa, the absence of regulatory guidelines could present future challenges to its business model.

Presently, everyone is focused on seeing whether BitMari’s license application will be approved and what it will mean for Africa’s financial ecosystem. In the words of Christopher Mapondera at a recent interview,

“Bitmari is utilising the wisdom of Zimbabwe and the resources of Silicon Valley to build fintech applications that will change the speed and flexibility of transactions throughout Africa”.

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Ghana’s Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) Warns Public About Investing in Crypto

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In a recent statement, the SEC of Ghana has warned the populace against investing in cryptocurrency and crypto-related investment schemes. This warning comes amidst a growing concern of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) about how Ghanaians are diving head first into the cryptocurrency market.

SEC Warns About Crypto

The Director General of the SEC, Rev. Daniel Ogbarmey Tetteh, signed an official statement released by the Commission that cautions the general public about cryptocurrency trading and all crypto-related activities as these are not regulated by the Securities Exchange Commission reports News Ghana

“[Cryptocurrency investments] offered by unregistered and unlicensed entities on digital online trading platforms with promises of high returns on investment are not sanctioned nor registered by the SEC”, the statement read.

The Commission’s statement further read:

Ghana SEC“The SEC wishes to inform the general and investing public that none of these cryptocurrencies is recognised as currency or legal tender in Ghana. The platform on which they are traded are not also licensed nor regulated by the SEC. The SEC would like to make it clear that it does not currently regulate these types of products offerings and their accompanying online trading platforms or Exchanges. Members of the general public who are investing or intend to invest in such currencies or assets may be doing so at their own risk and can in no way be protected under the Securities law regime in Ghana.”

Currently, digital asset trading remains a regulatory and legal grey area in the West African nation. Whereas the SEC has stated that it is presently not in support of or regulating cryptocurrencies, it also has not stated that cryptocurrency trading is illegal.

The regulator only mentions that they are “unregistered, unlicensed, and unregulated under the Securities Law of Ghana“. Thus, this can be very much regarded as a “disclaimer” on the part of the regulatory body to the public to sensitise them that trading in cryptocurrencies in the country presently is only done at one’s own risk.

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Botswana Receives its First Bitcoin ATM

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Botswana Bitcoin ATM

A startup in Botswana recently launched the country’s first bitcoin ATM in a shopping mall in the country’s capital Gaborone.

Botswana’s First Bitcoin ATM

Botswana Bitcoin ATMAccording to a report by Business Times, the new bitcoin teller machine, which is Africa’s tenth bitcoin ATM, is located in Gaborone’s city centre in a large shopping mall.

The company hopes that its bitcoin ATM will gradually increase the use of cryptocurrency in the city. Also, given the many negative stories surrounding cryptocurrencies, transactions without human interactions could be an attractive option to potential customers.

“We have been working tirelessly to make it easier for Batswana [people of Botswana] to buy cryptocurrencies and now we are bringing simplicity, convenience, and trust to the cryptocurrency purchasing experience,” said Express Minds’ Director Brose Watlala.

Mr. Watlala further states that the machine has a maximum daily transaction limit of around $5,000 and is the fastest, most convenient way to currently buy bitcoin in Botswana. Since there are no local cryptocurrency exchanges in the country, the local bitcoin community will likely benefit from the new bitcoin ATM.

The Future of Bitcoin ATMs

Botswana‘s government has paid negligible attention to digital currencies with its central bank not having made any official comments on cryptoassets or the blockchain. Currently, there are no clear rules and regulations around the legality of bitcoin and other crypoassets in the African nation. That means that the new bitcoin ATM may or may not last a long time should the country’s regulatory position towards bitcoin change.

As for now though, Express Minds use their newly launched bitcoin ATM to teach more people about bitcoin and the crypto world, which could go a long way in helping the country’s progress in crypto adoption.

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Kenya’s Regulatory Sandbox Will Not Accommodate Cryptocurrency Firms Says CMA

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Regulatory Sandbox in Kenya

Kenya’s financial regulator, the Capital Markets Authority (CMA), announced that the new regulatory sandbox will not accommodate blockchain firms dealing in cryptocurrencies.

The Regulatory Sandbox in Kenya

“[…] Blockchain firms will be considered so long as they are not dealing with cryptocurrencies since the CMA’s mandate does not extend to currency. The CMA regulatory sandbox can only serve financial innovations that are directly within the regulatory perimeter of the CMA.” said the Capital Markets Authority’s chief executive Paul Muthaura, according to a report by BusinessDailyAfrica.

CMA

The new regulatory sandbox aims to offer a controlled environment for fintech firms to innovate and create financial products that protect the interests of consumers.

The regulatory sandbox has so far received interest from 70 firms that want to join. Most of these firms are in the payments sector while others are crowdfunding platforms in the real estate and health sectors. In addition, some of these firms are from outside Kenya.

The CMA recently held a validation exercise with the 70 firms of the opinions received from the public regarding the new laws guiding the sandbox. Before this, the regulator had requested for public feedback regarding the sandbox’s regulations.

In April, the Authority will issue the final guidance notice to anchor the regulations into law before officially launching the sandbox in May.

An Anti-Crypto Regulatory Space

In the past, the Capital Markets Authority and the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) have warned Kenyans to avoid participating in initial coin offerings (ICOs) and trading in cryptocurrencies respectively. These warnings were issued because investing in ICOs and cryptocurrencies poses a high risk to consumers.

“There are risks associated with cryptocurrency particularly on consumer protection, fraud, hacking and loss of data and they are prone to be used as pyramid schemes,” the CBK governor, Dr. Patrick Njoroge asserted in 2018

In one of its 2018 soundness reports, the CMA recommended that a special body be created to oversee cryptocurrencies and ICOs. The report stated: “There is a need for regulators to devise a common approach towards handling issues revolving around cryptocurrencies and ICOs. A joint workgroup by financial sector regulators could be put in place to tackle issues around cryptocurrencies and ICOs.”

In light of the upcoming regulatory sandbox, Kenyans could benefit from the platform since the market is currently flooded with fintech solutions, especially those in the mobile lending sector, which are high-risk.

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